Since taking office in 2010, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has reshaped the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR). He appointed a former state senator and critic of the agency to be its secretary, and hired an outside “deer czar” in response to hunters’ complaints about the state’s management of the deer herd. Gov. Walker also re-wrote state mining regulations to clear the way for an ill-fated iron mine proposal that was finally abandoned last month. Several days ago, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the mining company’s lobbyist and spokesman had been considered for appointment as the DNR’s deputy secretary—until officials realized there was a federal law specifically preventing that kind of thing. (He was, instead, hired for a job in another agency.)
Now, the DNR has come under the budget knife. Among other changes and position cuts, the agency’s science bureau faces a 30 percent reduction in staff. Now, Wisconsin Watch reports that the DNR is considering eliminating the science bureau altogether, shuffling remaining staff into other divisions.
The bureau performs the local, applied ecological research and monitoring that informs state regulations. Timothy Van Deelen, a University of Wisconsin ecologist, told Wisconsin Watch he was concerned about losing that work. “Long-term data sets are so incredibly rare,” he said. “And now a lot of that monitoring, such as with the deer herd, is up in the air.”